The Tattie Thief – Tales from the Sanctuary

One evening, just as we were about to close, a van turned into the drive. This van, of no particular colour but definitely leaning towards nice shade of rust, was deposited in the middle of the drive, having first made sure no other vehicle could get past in either direction.
The driver secured the van and set off towards the house, hands in pockets and giving a good impression of a garden gnome. As he waddled up the driveway his eyes scanned everything as his head moved left to right, right to left in quick succession, missing nothing.
I thought this could not be good news and set off to intercept the gnome Impressionist before he could reach the front door. Before I could ask if I could be of assistance, and while he was still some distance from me, he shouted in a good Cumbrian dialect “Ah hear thoo’s lost some burds”.
As we drew closer together, and before I could answer him, he yelled again as if trying to inform the whole of the county “Well yen’s been doon int’ garden an’ it must be starven cos it’s eatin’ me tatties”.
Again I opened my mouth to answer but that’s about as far as I got, I was beginning to feel like a stranded goldfish. “Ah think thoo’d better git doon and git it afore it starves ta deeth, ahs nut touching it, cos it’s a greet big buzzard”.
I shall stop here and translate for anyone not familiar with the Cumbrian dialect. It appears that our gnome was trying to impart the following; “Excuse me good sir, I believe you have lost some birds. One of them has been down in my garden and it must be starving because it is eating my potatoes. I think you should go and collect it before it starves to death, I’m not touching it, because it’s a very large buzzard”.
At last he paused for breath and I took my opportunity to get a word in edgeways.” Are you sure it’s a buzzard?”. I managed to get in before he interjected again, in an even higher pitched voice. “Of course it’s a bloody buzzard, dis ta think ah divent nah a buzzard when ah sees yen? An al tell tha summat else, thool be gettin’ a bill for them tatties cos its gan wit’ lot!”
Again a little translation is in order here. “Of course it’s a ruddy buzzard, do you think I don’t know a buzzard when I see one? And I’ll tell you something else, you’ll be getting a bill for those potatoes because it going with them all”.
I took a couple of steps towards the gnome to reduce the need to hold the one-sided conversation at shouting level. Just what went through his mind I don’t know, but each step I took toward him he mimicked in reverse. After a few paces I realised this was going to be an uphill struggle to get a word in, let alone convince the man that the buzzard, if indeed it was a buzzard, would in no way be in the habit of eating tatties, sorry potatoes!
I decided discretion was the best part of valour and told him I would be there as soon as possible but, surprise, surprise, he was obviously not going to be fobbed off as easily as all at.
“Ah divn’t think things like that burd should be fleeing aboot roond ‘ere, tekkin’ folkses tatties”.
(“In my in my considered opinion I don’t believe things like that bird should be flying about round here, taking folks potatoes”).
In an attempt to get him on his way I told him I had other things to do before I could go and see to the bird, and he was still muttering about buzzards and tatties as he opened the door and struggled into the driver’s seat of the van.
It turned out that the information he delivered to me was in fact second or even third hand and had been discussed in the local hostelry the previous evening. On investigation the bird in question had been released by us a few weeks earlier and was learning to fend for itself rather well. It turned out the potato eating escapade was simply the bird helping himself to any worms there had been uncovered as the potatoes were harvested. The tattie rustling buzzard still visits us frequently and has become something of a celebrity around the area and has on occasions been mistaken for a golden eagle… Now a golden eagle eating tatties would be something to see.

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